Tuk Tuk ambulances making a difference for maternal health care in Lamu
When 35 year old Carol Mutheu went into labour last Saturday in Lamu Island’s Kashmir area, it was by no means going to be a walk in the park.
When it was time to deliver her baby, she knew too well that she had to quickly get to King Fahd hospital to save her life and that of the baby, yet on the Island, the only vehicle one can call upon in the hour of need is that of the County Commissioner.
Mustering all her energy, Mutheu took out her mobile phone and dialed a special hotline number familiar with all expectant mothers in the area for a revolutionary kind of ambulance, thanks to the Al Khair foundation which bought two Tuk Tuk ambulances and two boat ambulances at the cost of Sh7 million, which have since played a critical role in improving maternal health care in Lamu county.
Lamu Island, apart from being one of the world’s heritage site where there are no public vehicles to ferry patients to hospitals, is also home to the region’s worst maternal health care records in the country.
Yet Mutheu, like many others, was able to seek medical attention on time through the use of the local Tuk Tuk ambulance that has been a godsend for the locals and especially expectant mothers.
This time round during her second birth, unlike the previous one a year ago, the mother to be did not have to contend with being ferried in a handcart, which more often than not led to excessive bleeding due to the unconventional mode of transport to the hospital.
“The Tuk Tuk ambulance has really been a blessing for mothers who previously had to make do with being ferried on a hand cart, which was not only uncomfortable, but also caused birth complications due to the rocking nature of ferrying the mothers to the hospital,” Dr. Crispin Ladu, King Fahd medical superintendent told KNA on Monday.
He further stated that the Tuk Tuk ambulance has already made a difference in saving lives in an area where maternal mortality rates are 1, 000 deaths for 10, 000 child birth.
“The new mode of ambulance coupled with free maternity health care introduced by the Jubilee government has helped reduce maternal and infant mortality rates greatly, since more women are now choosing to give birth in the hospital,” Esther Osewe, the Matron in-Charge of King Fahd Hospital’s maternity wing states.
“It is because of the smooth ride to the hospital with the Tuk Tuk that sometimes makes the difference for these mothers who have in the past loathed giving birth in the hospital due to the treacherous journey here,” said the nurse.
This has been changing the face of Lamu’s Islands of Faza, Ndau and Pate that expectant mothers with complicated cases are now easily ferried with Tuk Tuk and boat ambulances to their delivery rooms.
One such beneficiary of the boat ambulance service is Aisha Hawa, 27, a Faza resident who gave birth on Sunday after braving a one hour ride across the Indian Ocean.
However, because of the improved medical services even aboard the boat ambulance, Hawa was able to give birth to her son, Athman Ibrahim in King Fahd Hospital.
The same can be said of Hannah Muthoni, 37, a mother of 6 who was easily ferried from Manda Island recently, thanks to the boat ambulance that is always on call.
“Such a trip across the Indian Ocean would not have taken place four years ago when women were still scared of using the boat ambulance, preferring instead to use midwives,” Dr. David Mulewa, Director of Medical Services in Lamu states.
He revealed that because of improved medical services and renewed trust in hospital personnel, maternal deliveries were now up by 80 per cent from a previous 20 per cent rate before the onset of improved health delivery services in the region.
“It is an issue of accepting new initiatives however simple they may be to save the lives of mothers in Lamu County, which still has a high maternal-infant mortality rate,” Dr. Mulewa said, adding that the “out of the box” ambulances have made a whole difference in saving lives of many women and making them happy mothers.
By Amenya Ochieng